Life & …Yet

20181127_144255The YET… painted on my classroom door.


Yet… it is a tiny but powerful word.  All may seem out of reach, insurmountable, unattainable, lost even, until yet comes along and brings with it light and hope, faith and determination.  Yet is a way to have your attempts at something, your mistakes and failures, feel like steps towards a goal.  Yet has the power to ease frustration and have your many tries feel a bit like strength training.  Yet can also bring with it a sense of deep learning and hard work, with perseverance the goal. That is huge… to have the journey be where the riches lie rather than the destination. And let’s be real, once you reach your goal isn’t there another yet on the horizon, another higher peak to reach for?


Yet…does not always have to change things in life-altering ways… it can simply propel you to think more positively and lead you to exploring more opportunities, different paths.  For example… I always wanted to play musical instrument but didn’t have one…yet?  I had dabbled in many as a kid but never stuck with anything.  I also love to sing so I thought it would be fun to be able to play instrument and sing along. I have always been in awe of people that do this with ease and beauty, I longingly wanted to be part of that crowd… but I didn’t know how, it was too hard, too much work, too much time (do you hear the downward spiral of thoughts?). Until… I decided to try the ukulele but hadn’t found one…yet.  Purchased one then picked it up started strumming, didn’t sound great…yet.  I was playing (I use this term loosely at this point) but I didn’t know any songs…yet.  So, I jumped on the internet, downloaded an app, now I had songs to play but no one to listen…yet?  I shared my new love of playing/singing with my ukulele with friends and found a friend who always wanted to sing but didn’t have the courage…yet.  Now we sing together and sound great but but haven’t found the right venue to go public…yet.  Do you see what I mean? Yet is the power that pulls you, encourages you, leads you to the next yet.  It is a compassionate force that gently reminds you that you can do more, you can be more.  It is a growth mind set that is simple and concise, tiny but mighty. I don’t mean to sound trite but I have seen the power of yet transform the thinking process and re-frame the negative thoughts… I have experienced it!.  


As you may (or may not) have read in my last post I am an elementary school teacher and many of my students come to me with an intense need to be right on the first try, to have all the skills on board for learning at the first pass.  This, however, is not the reality of learning. They are highly capable or gifted kids that are not used to having to work too hard to understand, not comfortable with making mistakes and growing from them. In the beginning of the year, there is often a LOT of negative self talk, shame of failures and emotional upset when mistakes happen. Because of this I thought I would try the power of yet out on them…  have yet flip the script.  I started using yet as an exclamation, a reminder, a way of punctuating a statement to help students re-frame their goal. “Jackson, you did it that time.  You may not understand how to add fractions easily yet… but your determination is great!”  “Carmen, I love how much effort you put into your writing piece and although it may not be complete yet… I recognize how much better you understand sentence structure and your writing is getting better with each draft.”   Or simply having the students repeat with me, “ We may not have ____ …yet, but we will!” Do you see the difference yet makes? It isn’t whether the skills are learned quickly it is about taking the time to learn them deeply.  In other words you may not have the skill down pat… yet, but you will… somehow this little powerful word has made a huge difference for my students. I hear kids saying to each other often as a way to encourage their peers, to remind them to try again.  Less tears, less discomfort, less self shaming… and that is a big win!


Personally, I haven’t always relied on yet.  However, over the last few years I have come to lean into yet often. While trudging through my husband’s cancer diagnosis and the myriad of issues that accompany that; emotional struggles, physical ailments, complete lack of knowledge about said diagnosis and how to manage learning all we could about it, paired with trying to have continuity in our regular life, it quickly became very clear to me that allowing yet in to my life was necessary.  Yet, in fact, became my saving grace, a life raft in a sea of uncertainty.  Yet afforded me the freedom to fail and learn, to fall and rise, to break down and get back up again.  Yet let me tune out when I needed mental break and then lead me back to the knowledge that it is okay to not have it all perfect, all right, all together.  Yet reminded me that even when you think you “have it all together” there is still more to learn, higher peaks to reach … yet is an ever moving target, supporting and encouraging me to do and be better.  I picture yet as my silent cheerleader on the sidelines, reminding and guiding me to reframe my negative thoughts.


I have the word “YET…” painted in big letters on my classroom door. My students and I use it to reframe our thinking when we need a little support.  We use it as part of our verbal call and response when we are not quite there…yet.  We point to it and repeat it when we are so close to a concept, when frustration creeps in, or when we have been working really hard and need a little encouragement. It is a prompt, a touchstone to all who walk through my classroom door; student, parent, teacher, administrator, custodial staff, guests, etc…, we do not have it all learned...yet, but we are working hard to get there and then once we are there… it is time to follow to where the next yet will lead us.


Where will your yet take you, next?





Life & … Gratitude for My Classroom

Better with you

(Student Work)

I am very lucky. I love what I do for a living.  Actually I never thought I would love it as much as I do and some days are better than others but on the whole I count myself among the fortunate to find joy and fulfillment in my job. I am an elementary school teacher.  I currently teach highly capable third and fourth graders, or what some call “gifted” students. I spend my days listening, teaching, learning and discovering new ways to ignite the spark of curiosity and the love of learning, in young minds. The particular group of little people I get to spend my days with are unique thinkers, they are typically more out of the box processors and determined truth seekers. They are little humans with big ideas and VERY different ways of explaining or figuring things out. These kiddos keep me on my toes for sure. They work hard, they get frustrated, they cry, they deep breath, they push and they explore. They are quirky and different and I love teaching them.


This group of kids that I teach, the one that is highly capable, tends to be really hard on themselves. They tend to have an internal pressure sensor to do well at first attempt and have a skewed idea that if they make a mistake it means they are a failure. They tend to be hyper-focused and desire to work individually, collaboration is not their idea of a good thing. These students, when in a regular classroom, are usually the ones who understand concepts and finish work quickly. These are the kids that yearn for more challenge not just another worksheet to pass time. They arrive at answers or solutions in a way maybe you haven’t even seen before and although it may take them some time to explain it to you, they get the answer nonetheless. This student, when not challenged in the right way or at a deeper level, can find themselves distracted or distracting others, which at times can lead to troubles while trying to occupy themselves, waiting… BUT once they land in my classroom the playing field is leveled, the waiting is over.  


All the kids in my classroom have some gifted-ness and therefore no one student is “the-anything” anymore; the “best”, the “smartest”, the “fastest” or has it the “easiest”,etc., they simply are learners in a community of learners.  This leveling out can often be difficult at first, I ask parents to give me a month… to trust me, trust the process and thankfully they do. It begins, these students are finally challenged in a way they have not been before. In those first 30 days, tears are usually more frequent, frustration is palpable and the big-deer-caught-in-the-headlight look is often seen. But after that something magical happens.  The fog lifts, the pressure releases. These kids find that they are lifting each other up, encouraging one another to try and try again, they work hard to not be so critical and they realize they have found their peeps.


You see the biggest challenge for these kiddos is their ability to develop a “highly capable” social and emotional acuity. Typically they are the kids that when in a regular classroom might feel a bit different, odd, or left out. Much of this is because they simply do not think the same way other kids think. They are an outlier… but once they end up in my class, they are with all the other outliers, their peeps!  It is amazing to watch, year after year this is the truth, they come from all over our district and finally feel like part of a group, a community, a class of learners all working hard and being challenged. We begin to develop a kind of family. We rely on each other, trust, find support and comfort in the safe environment we create together.

Awesome earth

 (Student Work- A Kind Notes for Foster Children)

These kids are fascinating, powerful, creative little humans and they are only 8, 9, and 10!  I am so grateful I get to spend two years with my kiddos, this enables me to support depth of knowledge, stretch their brains further, help develop a more socially and emotionally well rounded student. They are our future, as corny as that may sound, and I hope that above being intelligent they are kind human beings.


The social and emotional piece is huge in my classroom, H-U-G-E!  This type of learner often feels a intense sense of righteousness and injustice. They are often very black and white and are challenged when having gauge other people’s emotions or feel empathy.  Because of this my teaching partner and I have intentionally developed and continue to create opportunities to strengthen social and emotional IQ. (Side note: I have an amazing teaching partner that is happy to take on my ideas just as much as I take on hers.  We work extremely well together and I am so grateful for her. I recommend teaching partners for everyone, someone you can trust and be open and honest with that holds a mirror up for you and is the yin to your yang for teaching. This is a true gift!) We have three rules in our classroom that house all our expectations: show respect, make good decisions,and solve problems. Under these three simple expectations we are able to support the growth of our community in a respectful way while engaging students in the development of autonomy. This also enable us to continually work hard on social-emotional IQ throughout our day, all day, every day!


We have a letter writing campaign where students write kind letters to a different peer in our classrooms each week.  Each student anonymously looks for things throughout the week to write about, acts of kindness that they see the person they are writing to.  When the letters come the readers are just as inspired as the writers. This is a heart-warming moment in our class, the kind words that are shared between students is beautiful; joy becomes palpable, trust is gained.  This time becomes an invitation to be more kind.


(Student Work- Kind Note For Foster Children)

We sing songs about kindness and being part of a community making this world better. We read and collect inspirational quotes to share with the group.  We set time aside each day to celebrate acts of kindness in our community where students use the sentence frame, “I would like to thank _____ for their kindness when…”, to nominate others for their acts of kindness throughout the day.  We fill a basket with these nominations and celebrate with a Kindness Party (A.K.A. popcorn party) every time the basket is full. We also use this as a teaching tool, emptying some of the basket when something really hard, or unkind happens.  The power of this act is intense, silent… palpable. The discussion that follows is how one unkind act can reach our whole community, how we are better when we lift each other up instead of tear one another down, how when we show up for one another we are ALL better!  The community that we have established is safe, powerful, and forgiving and when something unkind happens in our community it affects us all.


(Student Work- A Kind Notes for Foster Children)

We celebrate kindness outside our classroom, too.  We perform all-school/community plays about improving our life through small kind, thoughtful acts. We fund-raise each year for a local and global social justice efforts. We invite families to a shared meal, at the beginning of the year, to help foster community for the parents of these students.  The idea to kindle and stoke the fire of kindness is ever present and is what I am most grateful in my job.


Test scores and data, standards and curriculum, memorization and fact fluency are all important but let me be clear… these are not the things that will take our kids safely into the future.  Kindness, gratitude, empathy, love, support, and recognizing that we are better together is the most important lesson I can teach. I do hope I live up to these expectations, I am so grateful for the opportunity to try.


Happy Thanksgiving to you all!





Life & … Dating My Husband


It is a little quieter in the Taylor house these days. Our daughters are both getting older and doing their own things.  Addison is busy at college and Delaney is busy as well, with her junior year, enough said, right?!. My husband, Kaycee, and I have found ourselves with a little more time on our hands as we are not having to do as much for the girls. The obligations of dividing and conquering to get it all done seem to be thinning, disappearing slowly and consistently like fog lifting.  Though we knew this time was coming it seemed to hit us suddenly. In truth it has been a long gradual release of our daughter’s into the world of responsibility and a slow, intentional process for us to prepare them. But now that is has started, it feels like it is too soon, probably not for them (insert teenage eye roll), but most definitely for Kaycee and I.


Recently, there have been days where I have come home and found myself a bit lost, wandering and wondering what I should be doing… time, it seems, is something that I have not had any “extra” of for a long time.  Sure I could fill it with more work (house, school, yard, etc.), or more exercise, more volunteering or cleaning (yuck) but instead Kaycee and I have decided to fill it with intentional dating. We are trying to circle back to each other, to connect like we used to when we were younger and had more time. See here’s the rub, we love each other, in fact we really like one another too, but over the years we have become a bit lax, complacent, comfortable and less creative with the ways in which we approach our love/like of each other. We knew our love was always going to be there and that we could count on it but we did not give it any extra attention. This new found time, however, has shone a light into the neglected corners of our courting practices.


While Kaycee and I are not trying to “catch or get or convince” one another like in the beginning of our relationship we are trying to find those commonalities, interests, and excitement in the things we like to share and do together. For the past 19 child raising years we have been happily absorbed into the activities of the girls and what they liked to do or whatever programming they had…. that was what drove our daily, weekly, yearly schedule.  We loved it.  Being parents and supporting their interests was what we had signed up for in the beginning and we will continue to do so. But now as our daughters continue to grow away from the daily family routine and branch out into their own big, beautiful, independent lives,  Kaycee and I are left to find new interests of our own and rekindle interests of our’s from years past.


Truth be told, we were never one of those couples that felt we could afford date nights. Being a stay at home mom and educators our finances were limited to necessities.  Yes, I know our relationship was and is a necessity but we chose to stay at home with the girls most of the time. Our nights typically were spent whole family. We were proud of our commitment to nightly family sit-down dinners and looked forward to our family time together. This was something that Kaycee and I planned even before we had kids. Before the girls came along, we intentionally talked about the things that were important to us from our childhood and what we wanted to bring to our family once it began. Honestly, I will miss this regular nightly connection with our girls… in fact this thought alone brings tears to my eyes knowing that our new normal will not include them daily to share in all the small moments.  I recognize that now the time spent with our girls will be the kind that we look forward to; cherished and even seen as a little bittersweet because of the time spent apart.


With this discovery of time Kaycee and I now plan a weekly date night, alternating between weeks. Sometimes it’s just an hour; phones down, distractions limited.  Happy hour tends to be our go to but sometimes it is a walk in a park, a stroll through a bookstore, a movie, or dinner. We are also trying to plan weekend getaways every quarter where we go overnight somewhere to rest and recharge, free from the distractions of regular life and work for 24-48 hours.  We are intentionally seeking ways to surprise and plan something the other would really enjoy, to bring back some of the sparkle, freshness and unexpectedness of dating.  It has been fun. It takes time and effort and we can become distracted from this goal and fall back into the ease of not “dating” but we are are relying on each other to hold the other partner accountable.


Please understand, I love the comfortable routine of our years together.  I adore that I can count on Kaycee to be there always and usually know exactly what to expect in any given situation. I love that I can glance at him and easily read his mood, whether he got enough sleep, had a good/bad day, if he has energy to make dinner or if I need to step in. Like many couples, we have developed a way to communicate with each other without even talking. We can laugh together over things from the past, our shared history, family stories, and inside jokes from the last 26 years.  I can count on him to recall the end of a story I may forget or help fill in the details of a story we can tell better together. We have been married for 22 years, not all easy, not all good, but all hard fought and beautiful because we were in it together.  Our vows, like many other couples vows, stated,  “For better or for worse” (been there done that), “For richer or for poorer”, (check), “In sickness or in health”, (unfortunately, walked this path too much).  We have lived by these promises to each other even in the hardest of times.


Over the past few years we have had more hard times than the easy, for sure. This has taught us a bit about living fully, taking in each day and trying to find joy in the simplest things. Now that the stressors of a major health crisis are dwindling we are working hard to be the best versions of ourselves, together and individually.  This is beneficial for all involved: us as a couple, ourselves individually, our family and for those we interact with everyday. We are exploring new places physically, mentally, and emotionally.  We are sharing new experiences and remembering all that we have accomplished together while looking forward to what we can create and experience in the future. 


We are entering this new season of life intentionally.  I use that word, intentionally, because we are active in this goal.  We are thinking, planning, discussing and sharing our needs and wants for our new found time. This dating process is not a passive experience. We are not just letting time go by while life rolls along as per usual.  We are working together, seeking out opportunities to learn and grow, involving ourselves in our own lives and recognizing challenges or roadblocks in order to reframe and refocus our individual needs and our needs as a couple. The truth is we are in this together. The end goal is something that we are both fighting for.  We are not opponents, we are the fiercest of allies.  The goal is to enter this next exciting phase or chapter of life with zest and grit, to bring forth as much love, laughter and affection as possible, together.


An although, like many,  when we got married we though, “Whew, no more dating!”,  I challenge us instead with a new vow… “Date your partner like there is no tomorrow.  Say how you feel everyday.  Be honest about your needs and feelings.  Work as hard as you did in the beginning.  Show them the creativity, the spontaneity, and all the fresh exciting love in your heart, everyday.”


Cheers to the next season of life!





Life &… Shoes

Image result for damenschuhe arten

I like shoes. No, I love shoes. In fact, I can admit I have somewhat of a shoe obsession.  I like to have shoes that complete any outfit and since each ensemble is different, from sweats to dressy, I have a lot of shoes. I enjoy when shoes can be a statement or a fun and exciting accessory to my wardrobe. I love the feeling of a comfortable pair of tennis shoes or slippers when my dogs might be barking.  I even like having just the right support for a workout or working outside. I believe I can always find a use for more shoes… even if I my husband thinks I have enough. Sometimes I like a pair of shoes because the are simply pretty or unique; different than any other shoe I have ever seen or worn before. I know that I don’t need anymore shoes, but that doesn’t stop me from shoe shopping (usually virtually, actual purchasing is less often than it sounds).  It is fun for me, even rewarding to find the perfect pair of shoes that compliment, comfort, support, complete, dazzle, or improve my overall look or outlook. You know that pop-culture saying, “There’s an app for that”?  Well… I have a different one that plays on a loop in my head, “There’s a shoe for that”!


Since I feel like I have a deep-ish understanding of shoes I have found I can use them as an analogy to talk about relationships. I have used this to help myself and my own daughters navigate the sometimes turbulent friendship/relationship waters.  I think friendships and relationships can be like a shoe collection… stay with me, folks.


We, as humans, shop for shoes for many different reasons…comfort and protection usually being the first reasons, especially when we are younger.  And just like we look for comfortable shoes when we are younger, we seek out friends that are safe that can add comfort to our lives.


Often we buy the same type of shoes over and over because they are tried-and-true (Birkenstock for me).  We know the fit of these shoes to always be the same, we are aware of what we are getting and we know we will be satisfied.  There is little to no wearing-in that has to happen with these shoes because there is a long history of muscle memory. These shoes are usually what I think of as my oldest-dearest friends, the friends I have had since childhood or those that have been collected throughout the years that possess that life-long-friendship quality.  Most of these friends have seen me through the ugly, awkward and difficult phases with grace and have devoted equal time in the beautiful, easy and good times of my life. This small group of people are the kind that no matter how much time has passed we are able to slip back into the comfortable ease of where we were before. These are the friends you can count on in the most joyous and the most difficult of times.  


Relationships may be fewer with the people in this group. These shoes are hard to come by but once you own them you will never let them go. These tried-and-true comfort shoes are the kind that support and love you without judgement, they are honest and real.  They live comfortably in the back of your closet, always… just waiting patiently to be worn. They are not demanding of your time but celebrate every second when the time comes for you to be reunited. Because there is a shared history, a strong foundation of wear, they know you almost better than you know yourself… your rough spots and curves, your cracked heals or manicured toes.  But most importantly these shoes are understanding and available at a moments notice. They don’t have to be worn all they time…but ohhhhh when they are worn you know it in your soul (or down to your sole, pun intended). You are rejuvenated by their presence, their touch, by their constant love and support and you are better because of them. You fit well together. You and that pair of shoes were meant to be lifelong friends.


Then there are the shoes you wear for going out on the town; fun shoes, colorful shoes, shoes that often look fabulous but can sometimes leave you with a shoe hangover the next day (AKA blisters).  These shoes are fabulous, no doubt, but can leave a mark for better or for worse. This particular group of shoes are always there for a good time, they like things to be easy and fun. Long distance walking or support is not really their style… they were not built for that. These shoes are often tucked away in a box or hidden behind other regularly worn shoes, waiting to be taken out for special occasions. These are the friends or relationships that you look forward to but for limited amounts of time, shorter periods of wear.  There is not a deep emotional connection to these shoes but you can typically count on a good time and something different than your regular everyday routine. These shoes can be SO MUCH FUN but can also be a little exhausting if worn to often.


There are also the shoes that get worn every week, often multiple times per week. Sometimes these shoes are worn for shorter, seasonal spurts, other times they are worn more long-term.  They are the basics, the shoes you count on to be there for your daily support, carpooling, comradery, hard work and determination that gets you through you daily life.  These shoes are made up of friends you call acquaintances, coworkers, neighbors, and other kids parents that you hang out with at theater rehearsals/productions, softball games, swim meets etc. (insert your child’s interest/activity here).  Sometimes these shoes become a pair you wear more regularly because you learn you can count on them for support on a deeper level. Sometimes these shoes can even become a pair you rely on and thus slide into the tried-and-true category. Often though, this particular group of shoes are worn for a season of use. They are perfect for work but when you get home you slide right back into your slippers. They fit great during the performance or swim season but when that is over you rarely reach for them in your closet.  It is great when you bump into them and sometimes you may go for coffee to catch up but you recognize that you don’t have as much in common with these shoes as the other shoes in your closet.


Sadly, not all shoes last forever.  There are shoes that need to be removed from your closet.  Sometimes this can be easy, other times this can be really hard to reconcile. The hardest is the pair of shoes that you have worn for a long time, you have come to rely on their strength and steadiness when suddenly they start to pinch or squeeze.  Without warning, the shoes that used to feel so good and comfortable now hurt and do not compliment anything in your closet. These are shoes you have invested time, energy, love, laughter and connection in but realize something has changed in your relationship and you need to let go… somehow you have to  get rid of them or donate to someone else.


These shoes represent relationships that no longer serve you.  They are the people in your life that had a valuable place in the closet, for some time, but that through life circumstances or personal growth no longer support you being the best version of yourself. These are hard relationships lost, friendships that have ended and they are not easy to get rid of because of the memories of what they used to provide. Sometimes these shoes sit in a donation bag, ready to go for a long time before you can actually let them go. As hard as it may be to remove these shoes from your closet you are often better for it in the end.  Later, when you see these shoes on someone else’s feet, and you will, you can hope for relief knowing you were able to love them and then let them go… but it can also be devastating.


In order to move through this life and to grow personally I realize that sometimes I need to clean my closet; to make space for new friends, there must be room in the closet. This can be hard… SO hard, but also necessary.  New friendships and relationships take time and space to create. New shoes need to be worn to determine whether they warrant a place in the closet. Through wear, trial and exploration you may find a new pair of shoes that fits perfectly!  New shoes can be just what you have been searching for for a long time or you may find they just do not fit… and that is okay, too. Either way you give them a try.


My closet is not limited. I have shoes for work, shoes for exercise, shoes for play and shoes for parties.  I have tall boots that feel like a hug and short booties that lift my mood. I own shoes for hot weather, cold weather and weather in between.  I have shoes for sand-between-my-toes and shoes for uneven rocky surfaces. There are shoes in my closet for all of life’s occasions… I do not try to exclude any shoes but I do try surround myself with the shoes fit ME the best.  Each occasion is different and may call for a different pair of shoes to be retrieved from the closet.


I feel blessed with all the shoes I have met in my lifetime and I can’t wait to see what shoes I get to try on in the future.  


So whether you are choosing to wear:


Shoes for comfort

Shoes for a statement

Shoes that look great but may give you blisters

Shoes that no matter how long it’s been between wearings, still fit and feel fabulous

Shoes that support your feet

Shoes that lift you up

Shoes that ground you

Shoes that are easy to slip on

Shoes that may have complicated lace up, zip up, tie or all of the above

Shoes for just the right occasion

Shoes that leave you thinking about them for days to come

Shoes that people like to talk about

Shoe that can listen with all their heart

Shoe that are tried-and-true, like Birkenstock for me, that never disappoint…


…Whatever your shoe choice is, choose wisely.